Review – The Hummingbird Project (2019)

Around 2010, I was a door-to-door salesman for AT&T U-Verse. Boy-oh-boy, was that an experience. I remember going through the classes and learning how fiber optics work, which on its own is an incredibly interesting area, and having a movie focus on this concept makes a lot of sense, breaking it down even further by looking at high-frequency trading makes even more sense, and immediately makes The Hummingbird Project an original concept, but they need to beware…not everyone knows how fiber optics work, let alone high-frequency trading, so they need to be careful on how they communicate with the audience. I think this movie has the most issues in that department, but there’s still a lot of good this movie has, too. Let’s get into it!

Cousins from New York, Vincent (Jesse Eisenberg) and Anton (Alexander Skarsgård) are players in the high-stakes game of High-Frequency Trading, where winning is measured in milliseconds. Their dream? To build a straight fiber-optic cable line between Kansas and New Jersey, making them millions. But nothing is straightforward for this flawed pair. Anton is the brains, Vincent is the hustler, and together they push each other and everyone around them to the breaking point with their quixotic adventure. Constantly breathing down their necks is their old boss Eva Torres (Salma Hayek), a powerful, intoxicating and manipulative trader who will stop at nothing to come between them and beat them at their own game.

The Orchard

The technological side of this film, combined with Jesse Eisenberg starring, and even with the overall atmosphere of an extensive plan in his head makes this film feel oddly reminiscent of The Social Network. That’s probably why the tone of the film feels like it was based off of a true story, as well, but it’s not. It’s entirely fictional.

Now, before I go further, let me first point out what high-frequency trading even is, because the movie doesn’t do a very good job explaining that. It is essentially the thing that’s replacing human stock brokers at Wall Street, as it’s an automated mechanism based around computer coding that makes money for the rich and famous automatically, and the speed in which it gathers information actually matters, so this entire movie is based around the idea that these people are trying to get information one millisecond faster than everyone else, which means they get that much more money and come out as victors. The movie talked a lot about being the fastest to get the information, but I kept asking how one millisecond made that much of a difference in the long term. It never talked about automation and just kind of expected you to know what high-frequency trading was. I mean, that’s readily apparent as there’s a lot of technical verbiage in the film that’s probably on point, but unless you work in the same field, you’ll have no idea what they’re actually talking about. The film simply needed more exposition for the lamens out there. As it is, I’ll just say it feels really high-brow.

So, one of the main things that attracted me to this movie, apart from the original concept, was the actors, especially with Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgard. I am convinced that Skarsgard has been underrated for years, and definitely has an impressive acting range, and he definitely proves that again here. He’s bald, acts a little weird, a little withdrawn, walks with a hunch, and when he’s at a restaurant, he acts kind of like a kid when he leans down and drinks from his straw without actually touching the cup. It’s these little things, these little ticks that I kept noticing that impressed me with his acting ability. Did he have to do all of that to sell his character? Probably not, but I am glad that he did. Jesse Eisenberg is mostly just being himself, as is Selma Hayek, but their roles, as with everyone else’s roles, is independently vital to the direction of the plot, which helps their otherwise standard and forgettable roles stand out above the rest.

Honestly, it’s their attention to the small things that made this film work so well. Not only was the acting subtly great, but so was the camerawork and editing. There was some honestly impressive work there that you barely notice because it wasn’t a huge focus. I only noticed because I was looking for it, but guys, some shots had some really great juxtaposition elements that really impressed me, but again, consistently subtle, always blending into everything else.

Overall, this movie may confuse you because it doesn’t always effectively communicate what it wants to with the audience, but that just means it’s high-brow. The more you watch it, the more you mostly understand what they’re going for. You may not understand all the mechanisms or how the moving parts work, but you understand the big picture, which is the main thing you need to know, anyway.

TOTAL SCORE 81%

Current 2019 Rankings:
Overall: 9th Place out of 53 Movies
Drama: 3rd Place out of 19 Movies
Thriller: 3rd Place out of 18 Movies

Other Drama Movies rated 81%:
Creed II
First Man
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Birdman
Mud
Prisoners
Children of Men
Fight Club
Rain Man

2019 DNA ANALYSIS

The following films are closely-related to this film when it comes to the bare bones – how the movie was technically made on a cinematic level. This is based off on how categories and subcategories are scored exactly the same.

The Weird Sibling
(Closest-resemblance by both category and subcategory with identical scoring)
Fast Color
Fast Color is the only other 2019 movie to score exactly the same in all subcategories for any given category. In this instance, it scored the same in every subcategory of the PEOPLE category, which makes up 1/3 of the DNA score. It also coincidentally is a drama/thriller.

The Immediate Family
(Closest resemblance in only scoring the same in the category total, but the subcategories can be scored differently; minimum of 3 matching category scores; must be the same genre)
No immediate family member

The Distant Cousins
(Same rules as immediate family, but it can be any genre)
Glass
The Curse of La Llorona
Obviously, there’s a reason why these are distant cousins. Glass and The Curse of La Llorona don’t really resemble this movie from a traditional stance, but they both have three categories done similarly to The Hummingbird Project. Glass had the same PEOPLE, BTS, and NARRATIVE ARC score, and La Llorona scored the same in the BTS, NARRATIVE ARC, and ENTERTAINMENT categories.

Specs:
PEOPLE SCORE (17/20)
Acting (3/4) | Characters (3/4) | Casting (3/4) | Importance (4/4) | Chemistry (4/4)
WRITING SCORE (8/10)
Dialogue (2/2) | Balance (2/2) | Story Depth (0/2) | Originality (2/2) | Interesting (2/2)
BEHIND-THE-SCENES SCORE (8/10)
Visuals (1/2) | Cinematography (2/2) | Editing (2/2) | Advertising (2/2) | Music & Sound (1/2)
NARRATIVE ARC SCORE (8/10)
Introduction (0/2) | Inciting Incident (2/2) | Obstacles (2/2) | Climax (2/2) | Falling Action (2/2)
ENTERTAINMENT SCORE (5/10)
Rewatchability (1/2) | Fun Experience (2/2) | Impulse to Buy or Own (0/2) | Impulse to Talk About or Recommend (0/2) | Engaging & Riveting (2/2)
SPECIALTY SCORE (35/40)
Jesse Eisengerg (5/10) | Concept (10/10) | Thriller (10/10) | Halfway Decent (10/10)

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